2023 Kane County Chronicle Football Player of the Year: Alessio Milivojevic, St. Francis

St. Francis' Alessio Milivojevic (11) is greeted in the end zone by fellow team mates after scoring a touchdown on a keeper against Morgan Park during a class 5A state quarterfinal football game at St. Francis High School in Wheaton on Saturday, Nov 11, 2023.

It’s no secret how St. Francis coach Bob McMillen feels about senior quarterback Alessio Milivojevic, his team leader.

McMillen will let any and all know how special his quarterback is. And can become.

“Just watching him evolve from sophomore year to senior year was just unbelievable,” McMillen said. “How much he really worked at his craft, how hard he wanted to be the best football player out there (and) how much he wanted to prove to a lot of the doubters out there and even some of these college coaches that didn’t take a chance on him that he was the best quarterback in the Midwest.”

Best in the Midwest. What that looks like in McMillen’s eyes, beyond the stats and accolades, starts with how Milivojevic prepares.

“It’s how he walks into practice. It’s how he goes about during practice making sure that everyone is doing every little thing correctly. ... He watches so much tape,” McMillen said. “He prepares himself with his game plans and understands what he’s doing. ... He’s never going to let anyone else take the blame. Even if it’s a bad block, the quarterback gets hit and fumbles, (he’ll say) ‘It’s my fault. I should’ve held onto the ball.’ ”

St. Francis' Alessio Milivojevic (11) scrambles against Nazareth during the boys varsity IHSA 5A semifinal between Nazareth Academy and St. Francis high school in La Grange Park, IL on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023.

Milivojevic led St. Francis to a state semifinal for the second season in a row and put up spectacular numbers along the way. The Ball State commit completed 251-of-345 passes for 3,408 yards and a 73% completion rate. He had 40 touchdowns and only four interceptions and 331 rushing yards. Milivojevic was named the Chicago Catholic League Orange Division Player of the Year, first-team all-CCL and an IHSFCA Class 5A first-team selection.

“To take a team to the semifinals again, to be a top 10 team in the state and be where we are, it just shows the type of work ethic we have,” McMillen said. “We have good people around us, but we don’t get where we are from a standout of being a semifinalist team, a top 10 team, without a quarterback that just handles his business and worked his butt off to be successful.”

Considering his resumé, Milivojevic is the 2023 Kane County Chronicle Football Player of the Year.

“To be honest, I think this year, since I was a senior, (the internal motivation) was playing to be able to continue to play. Not really playing for myself. Playing for my family,” Milivojevic said. “You never want this thing to end and you never know when it’s going to end. So this year as a senior, I wanted to play like it was my last game because I never knew when it was. If we didn’t make the playoffs, I was done for. If we lost a game in the playoffs, I was done.

“So I wanted to play my heart out every game and give everything I got. I think I did that.”

Perhaps an underrated aspect of Milivojevic’s game was his ability to affect the game as a runner.

“When you watch the kid run, when you watch him go out there and do things on the football field, it’s like for a kid who is 6-foot-2, 220-pounds, he moves pretty well. He runs the ball well,” McMillen said. “He extends the plays to where the team continues to have success with his legs, but yet no one thought he could run the ball and do the things that he has done.”

St. Francis' Alessio Milivojevic (11) sits back in the pocket and looks downfield against Morgan Park during a class 5A state quarterfinal football game at St. Francis High School in Wheaton on Saturday, Nov 11, 2023.

Milivojevic often wouldn’t opt for the slide to avoid physical contact.

“No, he’s going to lower his shoulder and he’s going to let you know that I’m not that average quarterback,” McMillen said. “I’m going to hit you and make sure you know I’m here.

“Every coach that came in and talked to me about Alessio, (we’d discuss) Alessio Milivojevic is the college version of (Buffalo Bills quarterback) Josh Allen. He plays like Josh Allen. He competes like Josh Allen. He does whatever it takes to make his team be successful and that’s no matter of sacrificing his body, running over a defender or doing whatever he can with the football to make sure that his team wins.”

Before hanging up the phone, Milivojevic made sure to stress the following:

“I know this is a singular award, but I couldn’t do it without the offensive line, obviously, all the players around me, my running back, my coaches, my family. Everything around me. It’s more than a singular award,” Milivojevic said.